Workplace bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and /or in the course of employment which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.
An isolated incident of behaviour may be an affront to dignity at work but a once off incident is not considered bullying.
The 1998 & 2004 Acts defined sexual and non-gender harassment for the first time in Irish law. They Outlaw Sexual Harassment in the workplace and in the course of employment by an employer, another employee or by clients, clients or business contacts of an employer. It is essential that employers have in place accessible and effective policies and procedures to deal with sexual harassment and harassment.
Sexual Harassment is defined to include all unwelcome and sexually, or otherwise, offensive, humiliating or intimidating actions involving acts of physical intimacy , spoken words, gestures, or the production, display or circulation of written material or pictures, or requests for sexual favours.
Employers can use as a defence in case of Harassment and Sexual Harassment that they “take steps as are reasonably practicable”.
To be proactive in this area, it would mean taking actions to ensure the workforce understood:
- What the Law says and what constitutes Harassment.
- How to use the Disciplinary Process.
- Who to look to for help if they are harassed.
All employers should have a policy indicating their commitment to providing an environment that is free from harassment and bullying. The policy should state that Harassment and Bullying of all kinds will not be tolerated, that such actions will be the subject of disciplinary procedure and maybe unlawful. The policy should outline examples of what constitutes Harassment and Bullying.
Harassment awareness training should be included in induction training and management development training programmes. The procedures for raising Harassment and Bullying issues should be clearly defined.
A Sample Bullying & Harassment Policy and Procedure can be found in the Employee Handbook Template.